February 20, 2017

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Flu-type cases swamp city hospitals; turn boardrooms, lounges into wards

BORIS MINKEVICH / FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Seven Oaks Hospital has found additional spaces for patients using portable equipment.</p></p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / FREE PRESS FILES

Seven Oaks Hospital has found additional spaces for patients using portable equipment.

Health officials have postponed some elective surgeries and are using lounges and conference rooms to treat patients at deluged Winnipeg hospitals.

"Since the new year, we've seen an increasing number of people come to our emergency departments requiring admission, and their numbers are higher than normally seen," said Lori Lamont, vice-president and chief nursing officer with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Hospitals are dealing with more cases of flu-like respiratory illness, and many of those patients have other chronic health conditions, she said.

"It is making people quite ill."

The WRHA's "surge capacity plan" is kicking in to handle the spike in admissions, Lamont said.

"We have daily calls to look at where the pressure points are across the system and try and have all systems working together to maximize our ability to admit patients," she said.

Concordia and Seven Oaks hospitals have found additional spaces for admitted patients using portable equipment, she said.

"We try as much as possible to match the kind of care people need with the spaces available," Lamont said. "People who might be toward the end of their hospital stay and whose conditions are most stable would be the ones moved to those alternate spaces," she said.

Some elective surgeries that require longer hospital stays have been put on hold.

"We have cancelled a few surgical cases at this point and are working with those people to reschedule them as quickly as we can," she said.

Emergency departments are busier than usual, she said, advising people to avoid them if possible and see family doctors or neighbourhood clinics instead. A comprehensive list of health-care options, including QuickCare and walk-in clinics, is available at www.myrightcare.ca.

"In some cases, those with less-urgent illnesses who come to the emergency department are seeing longer wait times but that fluctuates throughout the day," Lamont said.

Most of the people who are being admitted from the ERs are sick with flu-like illnesses. While there haven't been a lot of test results confirming flu viruses yet, Lamont said WRHA believes it's only a matter of time.

WRHA is expected to issue its next flu update Friday. Last week's update said that between Sept. 1 and Dec. 24, there were 19 laboratory-confirmed cases of Influenza A in Manitoba and there was just one confirmed case of Influenza B. Typically, confirmed cases make up only a fraction of actual flu cases.

So far, two nursing homes have confirmed cases and two more have suspected cases, Lamont said.

Visitors to personal care homes and hospitals should make sure to wash their hands and are being asked to postpone visits if they're feeling unwell, especially at the Children's Hospital. Lamont urged people with bad colds and flu not to go to work.

"Stay home and look after yourself. Don't spread the illness."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Carol Sanders.

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